The Tommasi family's fortunes have mushroomed over the past century from a postage-stamp-sized vineyard purchased by Giacomo Tommasi in 1902, to the substantial acreage farmed by the fourth generation in their native Verona and farther south in Tuscany.
Pierangelo Tommasi, marketing and export manager, says the family has a series of celebrations planned to honour its 110th anniversary in the wine business, including the launch of a new Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine.
But there's no need to wait to taste the most exciting wine they have in their portfolio. Arele is a relatively new addition. It's a red made with grape varieties that are native to Verona, a portion of which are partially dried to increase the flavour and appeal of the finished wine.
Tommasi is best known for its Amarone and Ripasso red wines, which are made in special time-honored process. For Amarone, ripe grapes are picked and then placed on straw mats or wooden racks to dry and shrivel for months. When theses grapes are fermented the resulting wine is rich and flavourful, with powerful character thanks to its 14% to 16% alcohol content.
Ripasso sees the Valpolicella region's red wines refermented with the skins and seeds left over from the production of Amarone. The process adds body, structure and complexity to the finished wine.
Arele, which takes the name of the wood racks used to dry the grapes, is made to be fresher and fruitier than Ripasso or Amarone. "We thought it should be a younger brother or a cousin to our Ripasso," Tommasi explains.
"We thought we would dry the grapes for one month or so, in order to get some concentration and produce a medium-bodied red wine that could be known as part of the family of Valpolicella-based wines, but more charming perhaps. Smoother and sweeter than the Ripasso, which is usually more concentrated."
Appassimento, which is the Italian word for drying, could become a new style for the region, says Tommasi.
"I strongly believe that the new wines, like Arele and others being made by our competitors with a similar method will help to really build appassimento as a new Veneto-based category," he says, "especially in those markets where Ripasso and Amarone are already very well known."
Certainly the plummy fruit flavours and juicy personality of a wine like Arele makes it stand out. The style is enjoyable and incredibly food-friendly -- the sort of wine that would work with tomato sauces, barbecue and other meaty dishes. The quality for the price doesn't hurt either.
Wines of the Week:
Tommasi Viticoltori 2010 Pinot Grigio Le Rosse, Verona, Italy
BC $19.99 (326488) | AB $17.50 (326488) | ON $13.95 (270082)
The grapes used to produce this attractive Pinot Grigio come from a single vineyard owned by the Tommasi family. It is riper, with a creamier texture, than many Italian examples.
Tommasi Viticoltori 2009 Arele, Verona, Italy
BC $24.99 (203539) | AB $18.90 (745967) | MB $22.25 (745967) | ON $17.95 (224188)
This pleasing red makes the most of its juicy, spicy flavours. The mix of fresh berry and plummy fruit is nicely enhanced by spice and herbal noted. Good value.
Tommasi Viticoltori 2009 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, Verona, Italy
BC $29.99 (566844) | AB $24.30 (566844) | MB $26.75 (566844) | ON $19.99 (910430)
This is a rich, velvety red with powerful fruit and complexity. The dried fruit used in the production brings some funky earthy flavours that add to the wine's bold character.
© 2012 Christopher Waters. All rights reserved.